Brighten – James Cheetham interview

Special thanks to Chris Johnson for the images.

Brighton in Sussex has always had some of the best history in the UK as far as youth culture goes, whether it be Mods and Rockers kicking the crap out of each other on the beaches, the vibrant music scene, gay & lesbian rallies or indeed the wonderful world of skateboarding.

The centre piece for skaters that held it all this energy together over the years is called The Level and its fame has been derived from the mish mash of bullish attitudes, amazing skateboarders and general seaside town mental cases.

This month the Brighton skate scene celebrated the release of the follow up to Cheese on Tape, called Brighten, a local scene video filmed and edited by the work horse that is James ‘Slim Jim’ Cheetham. Knowing that Brighton is just down the road from here, we decided to knock on his door to find out why he decided to do it all over again.

Brighton has always been a tough place to skate over the years, generally the attitude down there used to be pretty gnarly. How different would you say it is now compared to the golden days of Pig City?

I’ve heard a lot of the stories about how back in the Pig City days there was an attitude, I guess if you weren’t ripping the vert then you weren’t aloud on it haha!! Now it is a nice place to be, the scene is proper tight, everyone is sound but it’s the usual thing, any newcomers seem to have to prove themselves if they’re skating The Level.

Many of southern skaters have always believed that The Level should be a world class park, where are people at down there these days to regenerate the area for skateboarders?

The park seems long overdue but I think the project is moving along. I’m not to sure who is in charge of it all but Jack Forester is always working towards something, I think he has a lot to do with it. Kevin Eason has done some designs and stuff, Darren Dartnell and the people up at Brighton youth club are always trying to raise funds and push things foward. Not sure when it will get going but hopefully in time for this generation. If not there are still a bunch of little ones who are already killing it.

With the sun, sea and tight units on offer in Brighton you would imagine that an annual jam down there would work well for visitors, what’s the score with bringing the local scene together and who is responsible?

The last Level Jam was amazing, massive turnout. Pasty on the mic, Horceface killah on the drums! I think doing it every summer would be a good idea, It manages to get everyone down and skate together, always brings the older Levelarmy generation back down for the day to. The man behind the last one was Jack Forester, hopefully he has something in the pipeline for this summer too.

What is the funniest story from the level that did the rounds over the last few years?

Theres way way to many to pinpoint one! Recently a skaghead walked through the level to jack up in the toilets and some one went in and set his hair on fire! See a lot of crazy people pass through there. If you want to see what its like to spend everyday there then just wait for Ed Hubert’s new video ‘LA*’ He has endless amounts of footage of all the crazy things that go down there.

We see that our buddy Stevie Thompson has a new shop there, has that brought more people together?

Yeh, Stevie recently opened up ‘Another Skateboard Shop‘. It’s what Brighton has been needing for a while now. You know it’s a true skateboard shop when you can go chill on the sofa and have a brew. ‘Another skateboard shop’ is sponsoring Isaac Miller and Ollie Smith at the moment and Stevie has some big plans for go skateboarding day, Sure a lot of good things are yet to come. You can find his shop downstairs from Cool Hand Luke, 29 Gloucester Road. Brighton.

So, in a sentence for people who don’t know, tell us what Brighten is all about…

Not sure if I can fit it all in a sentence. I love everything about Brighton, you can’t beat an ice cold beer down the beach in the sunshine!

So when did you start putting this footage together for Brighten?

It pretty much started straight after my previous video ‘Cheese on Tape‘ was finished. I kind of new that I was making another video but it took a while to work out who is in it and stuff. I’m stoked that it managed to differ from the line up in Cheese on Tape. Tried to get as many people as possible in the video this time. As the video progressed it started to make a bit more sense and was a lot clearer who was getting full parts and stuff.

How long did it take from start to finish?

Think it took between 2 and 3 years over all. I was working 9-5 for a year which made it quite difficult to film during the week.

Who was involved in the filming process?

I got a lot of contributions from other filmers. Really thankful for all the donations from Ryan Gray, Ben Powell, Andy Evans, Ed Hubert, Liam Teague and many more. I really couldn’t of done it without their help!

How long is the DVD and who is in it?

The DVD is about an hour long and features everyone from Brighton and a lot of uk heads too. Full parts from Louis Cooper, Stevie Thompson, Tom Felix, Joss Heierli, Niall Birnie, James Kilpatrick, Amir Williams, Wojtek Smith and Tom Grantham. Also a fair bit of footage from Sam Blewett, Mike Niccolls, Matt Ransom, Joe Lewis-Collins and many, many more!

Whose part was hardest to film?

Probably Tom felix simply because he hurt his knee and had to have an operation so it kind of cut it short. Just about managed to scrape enough though for a full part. A lot of people pushed it so hard though! Louis Cooper was on point from start to finish which is why he has ended up with an 8 minute killer part. Joss Heierli made the mission from worthing to Brighton every weekend without fail, He put a hell of a lot of effort in and sure it won’t go un noticed. Niall Birnie would wake me up every morning and force me out of bed to come and film him haha, He’s already on the case filming for a new part in Ed Hubert’s video. Basically every part had its difficulties but it is clear who pushed it when you watch the video.

How many times did you get busted filming it?

Non stop, most the spots in town are a complete bust. We would end up just walking all day not being able to settle down and skate anywhere!

What DVD was on the TV screen to inspire you to finish it?

I’m not actually to sure, I think it was a variety of videos. Static videos are amazing and have that unique style to them which seemed to fit in with Brighton a lot. Fully Flared steps up the production of any skate video and that is obviously a big influence as it just makes you realise how far skate videos can be pushed production wise. Also Mindfield is incredible, I have only seen it once but I am a fan of all Alien’s older stuff.

Was it a relief to finally get to the video premiere?!

Such a relief! I finished the video at about 5am the day of the premier. The theatre didn’t know it was actually a skate video until about 3 days before, I just told them it’s a film. So i was quite worried they were going to cancel it, the woman’s face when she saw the mob outside the theatre was priceless! Don’t think they knew what they were letting themselves in for. Was such a good feeling watching back on the last 3 years of Brighton skateboarding, never seen so many skateboarders from Brighton together! Really stoked on the turnout, You can peep Ed Hubert’s coverage of the premier here.

Who was most shameful that night after the consumption of too much juice?

Haha, everyone was pretty shameful! That night got extremely messy a limousine tried to run someone over outside the theatre and got a board through the windscreen, then we moved onto a rave at the Level where the predictable bitch-fight kicked off and some girl ended up getting a bottle to the face. I think everyone has there own stories to tell from that night, some people got lost by themselves. I think James Kilpatrick managed to end up with a broken nose or something. Quite an eventful night haha!!

What is the future of Brighton’s skate scene?

I think it’s going to carry on kicking off, there seems to be a non stop supply of little sick kids that appear out of nowhere. Expect more videos to come in the future, hopefully Brighton will be able to get the coverage that it well deserves!

Well done to all involved. Pick up a copy of ‘Brighten’ from